Diagnostic Tests & Screenings

Heart and Vascular Tests

Complete Diagnosis and Care
Learning that something may be wrong with your heart is scary. ThedaCare’s highly trained cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists ensure that you’re in good hands, and will work with you to diagnose and treat your condition.

Common Types of Diagnostic Tests
While there are lots of different tests for different heart and vascular conditions, here are some common ones that your doctor may recommend. Some are painless, while others are slightly invasive and will require sedation to help you feel more comfortable.        

Cardiac PET.CT

PET.CT is used in helping detect cancer, heart problems, and brain disorders.  In cardiology this test is used to improve the ability to “see” how well heart muscle picks up blood flow. A complete image of a patient’s heart on the screen means that there are no blood flow concerns which means less risk for a heart attack. An incomplete image of the heart suggests blockages that may need to be treated with stents or open heart surgery. During the test you lie down on an examination table that is moved into a donut shaped machine.  We have two such shapes, one is for CT and one is for PET. The CT provides a full image of the chest and allows us to pinpoint the heart and isolate it from all other organs. A small amount of radioactive material is then injected to see how well the heart receives blood flow. The heart is then stressed using a medication called Adenosine and another set of images is then created. Cardiologists then compare the two sets of pictures looking for any changes in how the heart picks up blood flow.

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)

Using small electrode patches that are attached to your chest, arms, and legs, this quick, painless test records the electrical activity of your heart. It looks for any abnormalities in your heart rhythm, and can help determine if you need additional cardiovascular testing.


This type of test uses ultrasound waves, which are recorded and translated into images, to evaluate the condition of your heart muscle and valves. There are different types of echocardiograms. Most are painless, and are similar to getting an x-ray or ultrasound, while others, like the transesophageal echocardiogram (which involves placing a small, flexible tube down your throat), are more invasive and require sedation.

Watch this video to learn what an Echocardiogram is and
how the test is performed.

Treadmill Stress Test

For this test, an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is conducted while you’re on a treadmill. By gradually increasing the treadmill’s incline, the test evaluates your body’s response to physical activity. Your heart’s electrical activity and your blood pressure are monitored throughout. The test will reveal any potential blockages in your heart’s arteries and any exercise-related arrhythmias. It can also rule out or identify heart problems not recorded during a standard, resting ECG.

Nuclear Medicine Tests

These types of tests use nuclear medicine to show how well your heart muscle receives oxygen-rich blood before and after exertion. By injecting nuclear medicine, such as Cardiolite or Rubidium, through an IV, images are created before and after you exercise or take medication, to see how well your heart is supplied with blood. If your heart has less blood following medication or exercise, then there is a strong likelihood that there are blockages impeding blood flow. This can put you at risk for heart problems.

Holter Monitor Test

Another type of electrocardiogram (ECG) test, a Holter Monitor continuously records your heart’s rhythm for 24 or 48 hours, depending on your doctor’s recommendation. Electrode patches are placed on your chest, and then connected to a small recording device that you can wear on your belt or in your pocket. This painless test records how your heart reacts during rest, activity, and stress throughout your normal day, and helps identify any abnormal heart rhythms and their possible triggers.

30-Day Event Monitor

A 30-day event monitor is similar to a Holter Monitor, and is often recommended if you’re experiencing abnormal heart rhythms that don’t occur frequently. This monitor can be worn up to 30 days, and allows you to record rhythms by pushing a button on the monitor when you feel abnormal beats or have symptoms. You’ll be able transmit the recorded rhythms to the Holter department over the phone, which are then shared with your physician.

Cardiac Catheterization

Also called a coronary angiogram, this test is one of the most reliable ways to see the anatomy and condition of the heart and its blood vessels. A long, thin tube, called a catheter, is inserted into a blood vessel in your arm or leg, and then guided to your heart with the help of a special x-ray machine. A dye is injected into the catheter, which allows your valves, coronary arteries, and heart chambers to be captured by x-ray video. You will be sedated during this procedure.

        See why and how a Cardiac Catheterization is used to 
        better understand blood flow within your heart.


Elective Screenings
Your doctor may also recommend screenings to catch heart and vascular conditions before they have a chance to develop or worsen. ThedaCare offers two painless, non-invasive screenings. While these screenings are typically not covered by insurance, they are reasonably priced, so having to pay the full cost out of pocket is often manageable.

Cardiac Calcium Scoring CT (Heart Screen)

Using a CT (computed tomography) scanner, this screening detects and measures the amount of calcium build-up in the coronary arteries. These calcium deposits correspond directly to the amount of coronary plaque in your arteries. A high calcium score means you have a high likelihood of developing coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Learn the reasons for a Cardiac Calcium Scoring CT and 
how you can prepare for this test.

Peripheral Vascular and Stroke Screening

This screening looks for the three primary causes of stroke and vascular disease: diminished blood flow in your peripheral arteries, build-up of plaque in your carotid arteries, and weakening and enlargement of your abdominal arteries. Because these conditions often have no warning signs, early detection is key in prevention.

What Happens Next
Depending on the results of your test or screening, your doctor may recommend additional testing, or treatment. Treatment could simply involve medication, or a more intensive procedure or surgery. Whatever your situation, you’ll have regular check-up visits with your cardiovascular specialist to monitor your progress and discuss any changes to your care plan, if needed.